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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   135
hauled. He saw an active, round-faced, rosy-cheeked
young woman in the team and he mentally suggested to
her that she should initiate socialist emulation among
the groups-----He was so absorbed in his reflections that
he did not see one of the horses go so near to the edge
of the ice hole that its hind legs slipped, and it fell into
the water. The weight of the sleigh kept the horse on the
surface, but the swiftness of the current was pulling it
under the ice. The old man with the axe fussed helpless-
ly, now dragging at the rail of the sleigh and now tugging
at the horse's bridle.
Stepan Ivanovich gasped and shouted at the top of his
voice: "The horse is drowning!"
The Commissar, with an incredible effort, his face
going ashen-grey from pain, rose up on his elbow and,
leaning his chest on the windowsill, looked out and
whispered: "The blockhead! Doesn't he understand? The
traces! ... Cut the traces! The horse will get out by itself.
Oh! He'll kill the beast!"
Clumsily, Stepan Ivanovich clambered on to the
windowsill. The horse was drowning. The turbid water
was already splashing over it, but it was making desperate
efforts to get out and dug its iron-shod forehoofs into
the edge of the ice.
"Cut the traces!" shouted the Commissar, as if the old
man on the river could hear him.
Stepan Ivanovich made a megaphone with his hands
and through the ventilating pane shouted the Commis-
sar's advice across the street:
"Hey! Old man! Cut the traces! You've got an axe in
your beltócut the traces, hack them!"
The old man heard this, what seemed to him, heaven-
sent advice. He snatched the axe from his belt and ait
the traces with a couple of strokes. Released from harness,
the horse at once clambered on to the ice, stood away
from the edge of the ice hole and, panting, shook itself
like a dog.
"What's the meaning of this?" a voice demaiided at
this moment.
Vasily Vasilyevich, with his smock unbuttoned and
without the white skull-cap he usually wore, was stand-
ing at the door. He flew into a towering rage, stamped